That’s a Wrap

Julia Rensch News

Today we’re wrapping up the last day of our Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival. It’s a final chance for musicians to soak up the workshops, classes, and events at their fingertips. Crown week is an experience of a lifetime. A week long intensive aimed at growing as artists and musicians. It has been an incredible seven days here in Bigfork, MT.


It was an impactful process, as musicians from all over the world were able to write, perform, collaborate, and master their crafts. We’re sad to see it end, in the course of the week participants joined an indescribable community. One of mutual partnership, growth, music, art and entertainment. It quickly develops into a family environment. Musicians can be found bonding all day long, whether it’s through the courses or over the extracurricular activities students participate in. Looking out over the lake today, participants could be seen swimming off the wooden dock, paddle boarding, kayaking, and sailing between classes. In addition to this they can enjoy the pool area, horseback riding and taking daily trips to Glacier National Park.


Nicky Vassallo, 24, a Fellowship Award participant from Seattle, Washington describes his experience with the Crown, “I’ll definitely miss the people, and the sense of camaraderie. Just being with people who are very pure about their interest in music.” Nicky’s performance last night on the electric guitar, received endless praise from the crowd. At tonight’s festival his brown curly hair hangs down against his shoulders, as he makes his rounds around the festival. “I’ll miss being around so much amazing music. Live music is where it’s at,” he says breaking into a grin. “Now when I put on headphones I’m like this isn’t music, this a representation of music and that’s the best that we have,” he laughs. “But it’s not the same as being in the room with people and seeing how everybody is interactive off the energy of a particular moment. That really gets into your skin.” He gives off a bashful vibe, so much so that you wouldn’t know he won a guitar competition, the Guitar Slinger Competition in Seattle, WA, against 800 other applicants.


Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival inspires artists, by providing a concentrated environment for them to flourish in. Usually sparking momentum for the process to continue. As Vassallo stares around the festival, the white tent booming live music on his last night in Montana, he says “I want to get myself into more situations where I’m learning from and talking to seasoned, experienced musicians. Music helps me connect with people. It feels good to see that the work I’ve been doing so far is being received well. I just want to explode into a new territory.” He smiles and lets out a laugh again.


The big grassy fields of Flathead Lake Lodge are busy with tents, food trucks, raffles, and entertainment tonight. Locals from all over have come down for our final concert festivities. Crowds are gathered around, laughing with snow cones, BBQ and music. It’s the end of one Crown year and onto our preparations for the next.


Brand New Percussion Class with Leni Stern and Alioune Faye

Julia Rensch News

Crown week is almost over but we keep it exciting to the very last second around here. This week we had a brand new addition to the Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival. A Percussion class held by Leni Stern, and her West African drummer Alioune Faye.


Faye was born and raised in Senegal, Africa. He started playing drums at the age of ten. “My father played the drums, my grandfather, my great-grandfather,” he smiles and adds, “my great-great-grandfather. Everyone in the family played the drums.”  It was second nature to him. Him and Stern met in New York, six years ago through her bass player and have been playing together ever since.


Every afternoon, residents can hear the drumming and rhythmic beats pouring out the screen door, into the clear skies circling the Main Lodge log cabin. Inside, are at least a dozen percussion instruments in a circle, and a participant at each one. Stern and Faye drum away with the class, teaching them how to feel the rhythm. Even offering private lessons throughout the day for artists or family members to continue their percussion education.


Stern reached out to Director Steve Anderson, and said she’d love to bring the sound of her band along with her to the Crown this year. “My band is a mix of rock, blues, jazz and African music. The rhythms of Africa brought the groove to America, and from there it transformed into all kinds of style.” Stern felt passionate about teaching rhythm to the Crown participants, believing that there is not enough education about rhythm for guitar players.


Stern, who travels all over the world teaching and performing, says the Western countries don’t teach enough percussion the way other cultures do. Lucky for Crown, Stern is a master percussion teacher. “You stick to a beat, and you start feeling the energy is gathers, how it moves forward.” Stern’s turquoise tattoos swirl up and down her arms as we sit under the pine trees circling the lodge, “Somebody said rhythm is always related to your heartbeat.” She lays her hands against her chest, “We are rhythmic beings. Our heart pumps our blood to a beat. We just need to relay our inner rhythms, all our energy that’s flowing, to the rhythm that we’re playing.”


Her words are as captivating as watching her perform. She describes sitting in her percussion class with the students, “[The noise] goes from chaos to something that sounds surprisingly amazing. How did these people who didn’t know how to do this 15 minutes ago, now make this sound?” She stares into the clear blue skies and smiles, like the thought of the music is beating through her now. She credits her partner Faye, “Alioune has been teaching rhythm for some time, this is not his first rodeo,” She laughs. “Energy is rhythm. We are rhythm. The heart is the most obvious, it’s the bass drum of this whole orchestra that we are.”


Stern is a master of her craft, and it’s obvious from both hearing her music and listening to her words. To partake in future Percussion Classes, join us next year at Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival.

Late Night Impromptu Jam Sessions? Yes please!

Julia Rensch News

Crown Guitar Festival continued on into the wee hours of the morning, again. Participants attend workshops, classes, and private events by day, but as soon as 7pm rolls around it’s all festival here at Flathead Lake Lodge. When the Festival wraps up at 10pm, locals head home and participants head to the Main Lodge for drinks and jams.


One of our favorite parts about Crown is the endless impromptu jam sessions. After the people of Bigfork, MT are fast asleep Flathead Lake Lodge comes to life with the sounds of world renowned musicians pouring through the windows and out over the lake. Everyone from participants and Master Mentors, to Artists in Residence and the Festival sound crew gather around the full equipment set up to enjoy a collaborative, no-pressure environment.


The room is filled with laughter, music and the joy of working with peers. Nothing else in the music world matches the unadulterated creativity that pours from their hands and voices. It’s a rare opportunity to have access to this every single night.


Emily Elbert, an Artist in Residence this year at Crown, earned a standing ovation from the crowd after her performance at the Festival last night. She came back to the lodge for the jam, relaxed with her friends and got back up in front of the mic. The participants look forward to the jams each night, eager to mesh and embrace everybody’s unique style. Elbert says, “Everyone from different parts of the festival are collaborating and having fun and letting their hair down and supporting each other. You don’t have to be concerned with a large audience or the pressure of a big show.”


For Elbert, a musician who travels the world performing, there are certain characteristics that set Crown apart from all the other workshops and festivals she attends, “The community. It’s the sense of family and being in a beautiful natural setting while immersed in guitar with such a loving, supportive family environment.”


The late night jams were our best kept secret until now. To join in on the incredible moments that take place after hours join us for next year’s Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival!

Rock, Blues & Bop Workshop

Julia Rensch News

We’re all sipping on coffee here this morning at Flathead Lake Lodge. After the first night of our annual Crown Guitar Festival kicked things up a notch, bringing in people from all over world to enjoy world class guitar, food trucks, drinks and great company.


But it never takes too long to get into full gear at Crown, where music, food and gorgeous scenery waft in with the breeze. We’re waking up with James Hogan and Brent Mason in the Rock, Blues & Bop Workshop this morning. Just another one of the powerful workshop classes that Crown offers every year.


Today’s Rock, Blues & Bop participants are breaking out their electric guitars, and taking turns on the stage practicing the licks Hogan’s been teaching. He’s beaming as two young students blast away on their guitars, complementing their vast improvement over the short three day period. The course takes on a question and answer, and of course jam, setting as it progresses. Two hours in, students can ask questions or jam along with Hogan and Mason as they demonstrate different techniques, riffs, licks, and rhythms, all while participants pick their brains about anything and everything.


The vibe is that of a laid back group of friends, reflecting on the performances of peers from the night before. All encouraging, all complimentary, meant to help lift their fellow musician and acknowledge each other as an artist. Mason acknowledges the Command Sisters incredible performance from the night before. The conversation reflects the Crown mission of a non-competitive, ego-less environment. One meant to embrace every avenue of music.


The last half hour before the class breaks for lunch Mason and Hogan are joined by Master Mentors; drummer Brad Boal and bass player Adam Nitti. Participants take turns replacing Hogan and Mason on the lead guitars, with frequent breaks for instructions and feedback. 24 year old Ian Velikoff,  a second year scholarship student, is eager to absorb the knowledge of the professionals surrounding him and sticks his hand up to be first on stage.


“I don’t think I’ve ever been more inspired in my life by music, than when I’m here,” Velikoff  describes the irresistible draw of the Crown Workshop during lunch break. “You get to see so many different walks of life, and styles of music. Everybody has such a unique personality on their instrument. Energetically you can feel how the different types of music affect you. It’s interesting being exposed to all these genres of music in such a short period of time by musicians who are just, well, incredible,” He pauses. “And the faculty is amazing,” he says smiling, “They always pick the most down to earth people.”


Nobody embodies this down to earth, instructional environment better than Hogan himself. His class is laid back, but packed with knowledge and direction. An instructor for 25 years, he has refined his craft of teaching complicated material. “The material is so intimidating, it just wouldn’t work if I was intimidating too.” It’d be easy to spend the class talking about his endless accomplishments, or demonstrating his amazingly professional skill level. But he doesn’t, he relates to every participant on a personal level, absolutely ego free. He puts them at ease by sharing about all the times he was around better musicians and the drive it gave him to work harder.


To experience a Rock, Blues & Bop Workshop for yourself, stay tuned for our 9th annual Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival 2018 registration information. Until then keep following our News and Events blog for updates of the super cool things we get to do all day.

Singer Songwriter Workshop

Julia Rensch News

Ever wonder what goes on up at the Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival in Bigfork, MT? Well here’s your chance to find out. This week we’ll be giving our readers a sneak peek into some of our famous, life changing musical workshops led by award winning artists. Musicians from all over the world come to Crown to experience the amazing atmosphere and learning environment.


Each morning after breakfast, residents wake up and head off to their designated workshops. Crown offers everything from Singer/Songwriter to Rock, Blues & Bop to Classical workshops. Participants spend the next three hours mesmerized in an non-competitive, intensive workshop. The Singer/Songwriter class takes the approach of allowing each artist to explore their musical path, or express the hurdles that might be blocking their artistry. It’s a safe, open environment where the artists quickly learn to trust each other and let their guards down.


At 9am the Singer/Songwriter students gather in their Workshop room, which is held inside a log cabin overlooking the water. More floor to ceiling windows wrap around the room, rushing inspiration in from the glistening lake. They begin by singing as a group and move on to different exercises and lessons.


“You know that saying ‘If I had more time I’d write a shorter letter’?” Laura Jean Anderson’s dark hair silhouettes against the ceiling-length windows behind her, “I’d like to horn in on the truth [of my writing]” She’s answering instructor, and Knoxville musician, Greg Horne‘s question: “What would you like to take away from this workshop?”


Anderson, a Los Angeles based performer, is taking part in the singer/songwriter workshop. One hour and forty-five minutes into the workshop each of the 13 musicians present has played an original song, filling the room with passion, emotion and support. When each one is finished, the entire group applauds and compliments the unique artistry of each individual. It’s an environment every artist thrives in and searches for in everyday life.


One woman sang a song about a recent loss, her voice cracking with emotion as tears brimmed her eyelids. Another sang about a past breakup, crediting the separation as the reason she got into songwriting. Then there’s silence as each musician sweeps their pencil across their notebook in avid lyric writing. The creativity gates have been opened and it swirls around the room, pouring over each and everyone of them.


The class meets back after lunch, breaking into smaller groups within their workshop. From here they begin a group song writing process. Gathered into groups of three, some can be seen strumming and singing along together while others take turns writing song titles, working their way backwards. There is laughter escaping from certain groups. While other artists are brave enough to open themselves to each other, becoming completely vulnerable and inspiring creativity. The wheels are spinning as each artist enters their zone.


The Singer/Songwriter Workshop is just one of many that Crown has to offer. For more information on the different workshop classes that Crown has to offer visit our website. And check back daily for more behind the scene peeks of the 8th annual Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival!


Welcome to the 8th Annual Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival

Julia Rensch News

Welcome to the 8th annual Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival! Our week has begun! Orientation was in full swing here yesterday, when musicians from all over the world came to Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, MT to experience every musician’s dream. A concentrated week of music, workshops, mentoring and endless jam sessions. It’s a time to reflect, process and refine their craft. A time to renew, replenish and celebrate next to one of America’s most beautiful destinations, Flathead Lake.


Flathead Lake Lodge has been owned and operated by the Averill Family since 1945. It’s hosted locals, celebrities, festivals and guests from around the world. An all-inclusive dude ranch experience where people come year after year to embrace a remote, unplugged lifestyle. Spouses and families often join the musicians of Crown each year and spend their days riding horses, kayaking, boat riding, painting, and exploring Glacier National Park.


The morning of orientation musicians, spouses, families, staff and volunteers gathered in the Main Lodge to hear an introduction from Founder David Feffer and Executive Director Steve Anderson. Familiar faces and new artists shook hands and embraced each other. People circled the room reconnecting with the lasting relationships they made in previous years. The residents of Bigfork look forward to the Crown Festival every year, willing to help and participate in every way they can. Gathering over 200 volunteers, it’s a heartfelt, meaningful production.


It’s was a mesmerizing scene as the directors introduced themselves, floor to ceiling windows reveal miles of water behind the lodge, with sunlight racing across its ripples. A site that breathed creativity and new life into everyone within its reach. Steve Anderson asked guests to hang their egos up at the door, “If you haven’t done that yet, make sure you do. We are all equal here.” In an environment with beginners and Grammy award winning artists, this is a welcome neutralizer. It’s not about who you know or what you’ve accomplished once you walk into Crown. It’s about the music. It’s about the art. It’s about the people.

For an inside look at the Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival this year follow our News and Events page. We’ll be posting inside looks into some of our most beloved Workshops, Master Classes, and events all week long.

Scholarship Fundraiser: Jeep Raffle

Taylor Smith News


Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation


Date:  May 30, 2017

 Photos follow in separate release

CONTACT: Marti Kurth, Crown media relations mediamartik@gmail cell: 406-862-3608


Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation seeks to fund their eighth annual scholarship program via a raffle for a 2017 Jeep

            (Bigfork, MT) Deepening the world’s appreciation and love of guitar music is the overarching mission of the Crown of the Continent Guitar Foundation. They work to accomplish this goal through their annual Crown Guitar Workshop and by offering a generous scholarship program for both Flathead Valley and Northwest Montana guitarists.

                  Over the past seven years of the workshop the foundation has awarded 144 scholarships to both students and teachers each valued at $5000, and 15 national fellowships to up-and-coming young musicians valued at $10,000 each. This program provides the students unparalleled exposure to high caliber faculty and successful big name artists and helps to build their skills and grow their careers.

         This year the “Crown” has chosen to raise funds for the scholarship program via a vehicle raffle. In collaboration with Don K Subaru / Jeep, Crown board members and staff are selling raffle tickets to win a 2017 Jeep Renegade Deserthawk 4×4.  Tickets are priced at $100 for one chance to win or 6 chances for $500 with a maximum of 888 tickets to be sold.  The winning ticket will be drawn on the final night of the Crown Guitar Festival, Saturday, September 2, 2017. The winner may choose to take the car or $20,000 in cash.

                  Tickets are available to purchase by calling the Crown office, 855-855-5900 ext 2. Additionally, board members will be selling raffle tickets at several community events in Bigfork including the annual 4th of July Parade and the Festival of the Arts in August.  Kalispell events include the weekly ThursdayFest and the NW Montana Fair as well as at the Don K dealership in Whitefish.

                   Two former scholarship winners have great things to say about the Crown Workshop. “When I arrived at Crown two years ago, I could barely sing and strum at the same time.  Within a week, I had mastered the skill of multitasking and gained a much greater appreciation and knowledge of other styles of music.  I am amazed by how large of a difference one week can make and how greatly I am impacted by hearing the stories of other musicians,” commented Emily Freudenberger, 16, of Whitefish. 

                  Missoula performer, Sean Burress noted last year that “Journeying through life as a musician is much like the passage of a young wizard on a lifelong quest to slay demons and spread peace throughout the land.  The Crown of the Continent Guitar Workshop strikes me as a crucial step along the way; a chance to gain countless experience points.  It will be the perfect launch pad to the next phase of my adventure.”

                   To learn more about the 8th annual Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival visit or call 855-855-5900.

Jerry Douglas and Sonny Landreth head the lineup of master guitarists for the Eighth Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival

Taylor Smith News

Jerry Douglas and Sonny Landreth head the lineup of master guitarists for the Eighth Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival, Aug. 27- Sept. 2, 2017

   (Bigfork, Mont.) It’s big, it’s bold and it’s the eighth year for the Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival that will take over the village of Bigfork, Montana from August 27 through Sept. 2, 2017. It’s all about guitar and it is held in one of the most beautiful settings in the world at Flathead Lake Lodge, a luxury dude ranch situated along Flathead Lake in Northwest Montana.

Headlining the 2017 roster of Crown Artists in Residence (AIR) will be two incomparable guitarists, multi-Grammy winner Jerry Douglas, the foremost master of the Dobro resonator guitar, and returning electric slide guitar master Sonny Landreth, known for his innovative techniques on the instrument. They will collaborate in a new workshop class called “Slide-alicious”  one of eight guitar genre classes taught during the workshop week.

New artists teaching this year include the eclectic and amazing, multi-instrumentalist, David Lindley and classical guitar master and 2016 Grammy winner, Jason Vieaux.  Returning for a second time will be Nashville recording artist and blues master, Brent Mason, along with Grammy winner Mike Stern – known for his progressive jazz and blues and his wife Leni Stern, known for her stylizations of jazz with West African and world music. Also coming back for her third time will be the extraordinary guitarist and singer-songwriter, Emily Elbert.

Guitar Slinger

Taylor Smith News

Whether you shred, strum, slide or pluck, it’s time to submit your skills for the chance to win cash, scholarships and guitars at Guitar Slinger: The Ultimate Guitar Showdown, presented by Upstream Music Fest + Summit.

Four amateur guitar virtuosos ages 13 and up will be chosen to compete in front of a crowd and a panel of celebrity judges including Ayron Jones of Ayron Jones and The Way, at MoPOP’s Sky Church.

Slingers can submit to compete in four categories; Acoustic, Jazz, Blues/Slide, and Rock/Metal. Prizes include a slot to play on the mainstage at Upstream Music Fest in May 2017, a scholarship to Crown Guitar Workshop and $2,250 in prize money! The competition will be followed by a rocking show headlined by a surprise Northwest band. Submissions will close February 1, 2017.

Sixteen Guitar Slinger Performances, four slingers in each category. Slingers will be judged on musicianship, technique, improvisation and style.

Acoustic If you’re playing on an acoustic guitar, you should submit here. Styles range from the fingerstyle techniques of Chet Atkins and Tommy Emmanuel to the rich complexity of Michael Hedges. Jazz From old school jazz legends to modern If you’re playing on an acoustic guitar, you should submit here. Styles range from the fingerstyle techniques of Chet Atkins and Tommy Emmanuel to the rich complexity of Michael Hedges.

Jazz From old school jazz legends to modern fusion, if you take inspiration from Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny, Joe Pass, Bill Frisell or Snarky Puppy you should submit here.

Blues/Slide Down and dirty blues, the kind you perfect in a smoke-filled back alley bar. You’re a little bit Joe Bonamassa and a little bit B.B. King, with a side of Bonnie Raitt. Definitely submit here.

Rock/Metal You came to rock, and we salute you. You love whammy bars, screaming bends and Marshall stack feedback. You honed chops listening to Steve Vai, Orianthi, Jimmy Page and Slash. Go to 11, then submit here.

Grand Prize One (1) Grand Prize slinger will win a fellowship to attend in the Crown Guitar Workshop and Festival, a Gibson guitar and will play on stage at Upstream Music Fest + Summit in May 2017!

Runners Up Three (3) runners up will each receive a swag bag compliments of KEXP and MoPOP and a cash prize of $750. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited. Must be a legal U.S. resident; age 13+. Ends 2/1/17 at 11:59:59pm PT.

To be selected as a finalist, must be available to perform in Seattle, WA on 3/18/17. 1 grand prize winner will get a fellowship for the Crown of the Continent Guitar Workshop and Festival 2017, a Gibson guitar, and the opportunity to show off their skills by playing at the Upstream Music Fest + Summit in May 2017 (Total ARV: $11,500). Three runner-up winners will each receive an upstream branded swag bag (ARV: $200) and $750 cash prize.  

Find out complete list of rules over at